Tom Strini

Brooklyn Rider at Frankly Music

By - Feb 15th, 2010 02:26 pm
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It pays to have connections.

Frank Almond, the Milwaukee Symphony’s concertmaster and director/founder of the Frankly Music series, plays in An Die Musik in New York. There, he met violist Nicholas Cords. Cords also plays with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road project, along with violnist Johnny Gandelsman (his old Curtis Institute of Music roommate), and brothers Colin Jacobsen (violin) and Eric Jacobsen (cello). The four colleagues, all in their early 30s, became friends and then deeper colleagues, when they formed what became the Brooklyn Rider string quartet.

Brooklyn Rider will be the featured guest attraction on Almond’s Frankly Music program at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 16) at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The New York group has a further connection to Milwaukee. Gandelsman’s father, Yuri, was the violist in the Fine Arts Quartet for several years, before he left to join the faculty at Michigan State University.

“The only sad thing is that we’re coming to Milwaukee after my parents have left,” Gandelsman said, in an interview Sunday. “My dad could have cooked a huge meal for us.”

He spoke from Chicago, the fifth stop on a 20-city Brooklyn Rider tour that started in Seattle and will end in Philadelphia March 27. Venues have included clubs and ballrooms in addition to concert halls.

Brooklyn Rider, jumping around on their home turf.

Brooklyn Rider, jumping around on their home turf.

“We’re more like a new-music group, or like a band,” Gandelsman said. “Except for our cellist, we play standing up. We love to talk with the audience. We try to create an environment that’s inclusive. We want the energy to go out in ways that make it come back. The quartet allows us to explore our interests and passions on our own terms, which is key for us.”

Brooklyn Rider’s new Dominant Curve album, on the In a Circle label, includes Debussy’s Quartet in G minor, but the rest of the content is unique to this group.

Colin Jacobsen’s Achille’s Heel, in four movements, is there, along with Kojiro Umezaki’s (Cycles) what falls must rise, a commissioned work that blends shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese wind instrument, here played by the composer), electronics and quartet. Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky wrote the 11-minute …al niente for BR. The album ends with a new arrangement, by Justin Messina, of John Cage’s 1948 In a Landscape, originally for harp or piano.

“We love classical music,” Gandelsman said, “but we also love pop and world music. The quartet is such a flexible group; we can explore what we want to explore. All of us play in the Silk Road Ensemble, and that has been a transformative experience. It changed the way we think about music.”

Yo-Yo Ma’s ongoing project pairs composers and performers from vastly different musical traditions to search for common ground. Brooklyn Rider’s work with Umezaki reflects Silk Road influence, as do more recent collaborations with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes and Persian traditional musician Kayhan Kalhor.

“We’re all willing to go out of our comfort zone,” Gandelsman said. “We have experts to take us into different musical languages and show us the way.”

At the Frankly Music concert, Brooklyn Rider will play Jacobsen’s Achille’s Heel, Yanov-Yanovsky’s …al niente and the Debussy quartet, all from Dominant Curve, and Philip Glass’ String Quartet.

Concert time is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Wisconsin Lutheran College Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W. Wisconsin Ave. Tickets are $39, $10 for students, at the Wisconsin Lutheran College box office, 414- and at the Frankly Music website.

Categories: Classical

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